One of the most prolific players in IU men’s soccer history, Will Bruin accomplished nearly every feat and earned nearly every award possible in college soccer. He was also instrumental in guiding IU back to its familiar winning tradition after a brief stretch of underwhelming seasons.
Bruin, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, arrived in Bloomington in 2008 and wasted no time introducing himself to IU fans and the rest of the Big Ten. The eventual Big Ten Freshman of the Year started all 24 matches in his first campaign, scoring six goals, collecting 12 points and firing off 61 shots. Though the Hoosiers struggled in the regular season, finishing in fourth place in the Big Ten, Bruin helped propel the Hoosiers to a deep NCAA Tournament run before falling to St. John’s in the quarterfinals in a triple overtime thriller.
In Bruin’s sophomore season, his development and talent took a noticeable leap forward, catapulting him toward IU stardom and into a legitimate professional prospect. Bruin led the Hoosiers with nine goals, 22 points and 93 shot attempts in 2009, which parlayed into a First Team All-Big Ten selection. IU finished the season with a 12-10 overall record and was eliminated in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was also then-head coach Mike Freitag’s sixth and final season at the helm.
In 2010, the arrival of head coach Todd Yeagley ushered in a new era for IU, but Bruin’s familiar face remained. And he made sure to not let anyone forget it. One of the most dominant individual seasons in the history of the program, Bruin’s junior campaign ended with 18 goals, 41 points and 103 shot attempts as the Hoosiers claimed their 14th Big Ten regular season title. Among the numerous awards Bruin earned for his efforts, it included a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year nod, a College Soccer News First Team All-American selection and a semifinalist spot for the MAC Hermann trophy.
Bruin chose to forego his final season of eligibility in 2011, opting to declare for the Major League Soccer SuperDraft and signing a Generation Adidas contract with the MLS. He was selected 11th overall by the Houston Dynamos, where he scored 50 goals over six seasons before making his way to the Seattle Sounders. Bruin is now a 10-year veteran in the MLS.
The Hoosier Network caught up with Bruin, who talked about his experience at IU, how the MLS has evolved in the past decade and what it's like to be "one of the old guys" in the league.
Q: It’s been nearly 10 years since you’ve played at IU and moved on to professional soccer. What are some of the biggest transformations you’ve noticed or seen within professional soccer as the sport continues to grow in the United States and elsewhere?
A: This is my 10th year in MLS and it’s crazy how far the league has come since year one. The overall quality of play has increased along with the depth of rosters, which makes the (U.S. men’s national) team much more competitive internationally. The development of academies has made a big step, which has also helped pave a more direct path for younger players to the professional layer.
Q: You first came to Bloomington playing for coach Mike Freitag and his staff, and got drafted as coach Todd Yeagley was just beginning to take over. Is there anything (lessons, messages etc.) that has still stuck with you from IU’s coaching staff all these years later?
A: I loved playing for Coach (Freitag), and also (Yeagley) was an assistant coach on the staff my (freshman) year before he went to Wisconsin for a year, then coming back to IU (in 2010). That whole staff does an incredible job of not only coaching and maintaining very competitive teams, but also getting every person ready for the “real world.” That could consist of getting a job out of college or going on to play professionally. My time at IU taught me that hard work can help you achieve a lot of things in the real world.
Right back in it. ?@wbruin pulls @SoundersFC within one goal! #SEAvLAFC pic.twitter.com/xkrTQm8f3K
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 28, 2020
Q: Your career at IU was filled with accolades and championships — All-American, MAC Hermann trophy runner-up, All-Big Ten, Freshman of the Year, Big Ten title, and more. What are some things you’re most proud of from your time wearing a Hoosiers uniform?
A: My time at IU unfortunately went by too fast! I’m probably most proud of all the Big Ten championships we won. I left after my junior year and a bunch of my roommates went on to win a national championship in their fifth year without me, so they make sure I remember that.
Q: It’s been quite a while since you played at IU, but have you been able to stay in touch with some of your former IU teammates?
A: My class still stays in touch. There were four of us from (St. Louis) so that helps with our connection, but everyone still talks to everyone in various ways. Whenever you play against someone from IU in the league, you always go up and chat with them even if you have never met them.
Q: Many players and fans would call you a veteran now with the years of experience you’ve gained. As you’ve gotten older, have you made it more of a point to take younger players under your wing and be a veteran presence? In what ways?
A: Yeah, I’m for sure considered a veteran now since I’m in year 10, but I don’t really feel like “one of the old guys.” I always like to talk to young guys and try to be more of a role model by example for them. Also, I like to make sure I beat the young guys in everything, ranging from ping pong to training drills.
Q: Are you still able to keep up or watch college soccer at all? Have you been able to follow the Hoosiers each season?
A: I always keep up with how IU is doing in soccer, and all sports. I try to watch as many games as I can, but it’s a little tougher to always watch out here on the west coast.